A BA Journalism student’s reflection on the process of finding a media internship

My search for work placement and/or project opportunities has been ongoing throughout my degree however, for this particular “placement module” of my course, the search began in January.

The importance of having a strong network has become more and more apparent to me, as I learn that many opportunities in the creative industry arise from “who you know” and how you present yourself, as well as “what you know.” That doesn’t mean you need to know everyone, it means it is important to make smart connections with those doing substantial or relevant work in your field. Those who you can see yourself working progressively with, in a manner that benefits both yourself and them.

First Opportunity & Lesson Learned.

My first internship opportunity came through a network connection, an alumni of UAL, who was working for 4Music at the time. After a conversation about me looking for work experience, I sent her my CV and she managed to arrange for me to come in and do a one-week internship with the company. Unfortunately, she then left the company towards the end of March, and my internship was also dropped. The lesson taken from this was; whilst it is important to have a strong network, being entirely dependent on your network isn’t ideal either.

On the other hand, this situation was useful in leading me to think “what do I actually want out of an internship?” The internship I was to do at 4music, was going to be very tailored to myself as an individual and the kind of work I would like to be doing when I graduate.

At this point I hadn’t been applying for a specific advertised roles. I was naturally networking, presenting what I had to offer and demonstrating how I could make valuable contributions to the to the companies that I had researched – an approach that I find myself using very often. It allows me to maintain creative freedom, that is sometimes lost when following the traditional route.

The “right” mindset.

What I didn’t and still don’t want now, is experience for the sake of experience. It has always been imperative that whatever I do is progressive for me as an individual. I believe in working smart and using the finite amount of time that I have on this earth, in the most wholesome way. These are all things I took into consideration whilst researching more opportunities.

Additionally, I already had different forms of experience in Journalism, and so I was looking for “the next thing.” A placement that would diversify my portfolio, allow me to gain new skills and further expand my network. I also really wanted to find an environment that would suit my personal style as a writer/journalist.

The latter was most important to me, as a black woman who is naturally multi-faceted. My scope of subject interest is diverse and so is my skillset. I enjoy working with a variety of mediums, using creative methods to communicate a message and working with like-minded people. It is no secret that black women are the least represented in our journalism industry, as “British journalism is 94% white and 55% male.” Many black women who have become successful; those who inspire me have carved out unique career paths for themselves. For example, Liv Little, editor-in-chief of Gal-Dem.

 

Previous Experience.

My time at Certified UK channeled the journalist who loves music and is very connected to the best of up and coming talent. At vsnotebook I become confident in expressing my individual style, using that to connect with others and to create platforms where they were able to do the same. With Shades of Noir I have honed the critical thinker and the strategist within me.

Through these experiences I have learnt a lot about myself. I work best in diverse and forward-thinking environments, and tend to feel stifled when I am not able to continue growing. I have noticed the importance of working on my own individual projects, as that is where I am totally free to channel myself into my work. I enjoy having that balance of “a job role” and what I call “projects of love and passion.”

I have been searching for opportunities that allow me to combine the two, whilst still fulfilling my duty as a writer/journalist. I have found that media companies with a unique ethos and/or punk values, especially those that began by serving a niche and then expanded – are the best for me. For example, Refinery29 and Boiler Room.

 

Refinery29:

“Our content ranges from style trends and beauty DIYs to first person accounts from the political front lines, thought pieces on representation in media, advice from industry leaders on how to be a badass in the workplace, and more— all through Refinery29’s signature lens of optimism and inclusivity.

Our content is global and can be found anywhere, from your desktop to your Snapchat, videos and IRL through events. And with that, Refinery29 has become the number-one destination for women who crave style and substance, thought-provoking conversations, and the inspiration to live a more creative life.”

 

Boiler Room:

Boiler Room televises underground music as it happens from around the world to a massive online community. By doing so, we create windows into scenes and sounds from every corner of the globe, connecting millions of music heads with the specific music they love. This communal participation has redrawn the map for underground culture and proven that mass audiences now subscribe to alternative choice.

We believe where you live shouldn’t dictate what movements & sounds you can be part of. We’re a global family passionate about the ability music has to bring people together and to help solve some of the problems we all face. Boiler Room’s job is to broadcast the best of it, capturing its essence and disseminating it around the world, for our generation.”

 

The Second Opportunity.

A publication that does this well is FWRD ; “A new publication driven by progressive thoughts and ideas, by authenticity and creative understanding of culture, life, tech and everything it encompasses.”

I connected with the founder and co-editor Samuel Gordon via social media, before I began working remotely, submitting content to be reviewed and published by the editors. As well as keeping in contact, sharing updates and discussing ideas with the team via Slack.

The responsibility of selecting a story, choosing the angle, and deciding whose perspective it will be written from has been entirely my own – with suggestions and pointers from the team. You could call it an unorthodox style of working, as articles don’t have to be “pitched” to the editor per say, but may be something we would have had an informal conversation about, for example.

I have loved working with FWRD because the team is flexible, encouraging and forward-thinking. Each and every person in the team has their own individual interests and career paths, FWRD is a space where we all intersect to document or report on life and our experiences.

Through FWRD, I have learnt how to maintain structure without having to be unnaturally rigid. FWRD works well because it is self-serving, it gives the writers a consistent outlet whilst the writers keep the publication alive. It being on medium means the community element is maximized, and our content can be easily translated onto Twitter and Instagram.

 

The pros and cons of being a student in this process.

Being a UAL student has most certainly been helpful in building my confidence as a journalist and teaching me how to network. However, I must say it is definitely a different style of working to the way that we are taught on our journalism course.

From my experience, our course can at times be one-sided when it comes to defining what constitutes as journalism. Referencing only mainstream publications like the Guardian and NY Times. Publications that millennials like myself are becoming less and less likely to read, especially in comparison to the media companies that are constantly evolving with the times.

FWRD operates with the understanding that the future is diverse, and the way we approach journalism and communicate to the masses must be also. In other words, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” In order to stay relevant and to engage as many people as possible, it is wise to use all of these methods interchangeably. This does not mean getting rid of the traditional conventions of journalism, it means refreshing and updating them accordingly.

I am happy to have been able to spark conversation, receive excellent feedback from Twitter users who share my work. Overall, finding this has been a wonderful and enriching experience.